Is the translation industry suffering from “fast food syndrome”?
by Pisana Ferrari – cApStAn Ambassador to the Global Village
“Speed” and “cost” are the two factors lessening the importance of “quality” in the translation client’s decision-making, say fellow linguists at BeatBabel in a recent article for TC World. In the current context of exponential and unprecedented growth in content to be translated – the estimated numbers quoted in the article are mind boggling – “quality” itself is a term that needs to be redefined. Who decides what it means anyway? If every stakeholder is happy then it’s “good enough”. In line with what happened in the food industry, “comfort” is now the supreme value, and “fast” and “cheap” is the new way to go. LSPs have realised that, in a number of settings, the content creator and the end user don’t really care about translation, they want information (“good enough”). This has given rise to a business model that takes the decision-making out of the hands of the practitioners and into the hands of the market, the cornerstone of this model being the “levels of service” approach, which sees small and medium LSPs atomizing their services into an ever-increasing number of categories with ever-decreasing levels of quality. “The levels-of-service approach is undermining our credibility as the guarantors of said resource, and is de-professionalizing our industry”, stress the authors. “We, the practitioners, should reclaim our industry by setting our own quality standards and erasing the term ‘good enough’ from our playbooks”.
Here is our CEO Steve’s Dept’s take on the issue: “When clients ask cApStAn for minimum service (e.g. translation without review), we turn down the request. Some hairdressers know that they can only give you the haircut you want if they give you a shampoo first. If you ask one of those hairdressers whether you can skip the shampoo and get a discount, they will suggest you try another hairdresser, one who works on the fly. There is work for both types of hairdressers. We do believe that fast food has not damaged the dining industry to the core. The scene may seem dominated by fast-food joints, but there are also more exclusive fine dining places. Demanding foodies will find new experiences. It’s a niche. cApStAn linguistic quality control positions itself at the upper end of the quality spectrum, and we only handle high-stakes content, such as data collection instruments, exams, assessments, surveys. Client organisations know that it costs more to discard malfunctioning data than to invest in a good translation quality assurance design. When defining quality, equivalence and comparability, and when documenting each step of the processes implemented to meet the required standards, we are in fact responding to a need, we are filling a gap in the market: there is an increasing awareness that some content does require careful localisation, and there are promising years ahead for linguistic quality control”.
Photo credit: Andrew Weibert @ Unsplash